Polls indicate there is enough support in Florida to pass a constitutional amendment to end gambling on dog races.
Some opinion surveys show as much as 70 percent — or more — of the electorate favors banning betting on greyhounds in the Sunshine State, bringing an end to an era. A mandate of 60 percent is required.
Passage of the amendment would phase out betting on the dogs. The ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.
What happens if the proposition becomes law?
“We may lose 150 jobs,” Daytona Beach Kennel Club President Fred Guzman told The Beacon. “A lot of our people — this is all they know. We’re talking about real people with real families.”
They include dog handlers, kennel staff, wagering clerks, maintenance workers and hospitality employees, he said.
The referendum to end pari-mutuel betting at the state’s 11 remaining dog tracks — including the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club in Longwood — is one of 12 proposed constitutional amendments on the Tuesday, Nov. 6, ballot.
The greyhound amendment is No. 13. One amendment (No. 8) was removed by the Florida Supreme Court, so the numbering goes through 13, although only 12 amendments remain.
If Amendment 13 passes, facilities currently operating as dog tracks would be allowed to keep open their poker rooms and other betting facilities.
Unlike dog tracks and jai alai frontons that have closed in recent years, Guzman said the Daytona Beach dog track is holding its own.
“Daytona is different. Tracks have been closing. We’re not one of them. We’re very profitable,” he said.
The Daytona Beach Kennel Club has been helped in large part by its card room on the premises and a satellite gambling facility in Orange City.
The Orange City Racing & Card Club opened in a former movie theater at 822-4 Saxon Blvd. last year, offering patrons the opportunity to bet on greyhound races at the track in Daytona Beach, as well as on other sports.
The movement to ban betting on dog racing comes from people who say the dogs are kept in inhumane conditions and often suffer painful and disabling — even deadly — injuries, including broken legs and cardiac arrest.
“We are totally for getting rid of it,” said Pat Mihalic, a founder of Concerned Citizens for Animal Welfare. “There are not any old racing dogs.”
Mihalic said the dogs are subjected to inhumane living conditions between times on the track, and painful and disabling injuries as they chase a mechanical rabbit, sometimes at speeds of 40 to 45 miles per hour.
“A greyhound is dying on the track every three days,” Halifax Humane Society Community Outreach Director Barry KuKes said.
That statistic is echoed on the website of the Friends of Greyhounds, headquartered in Sunrise.
Daytona Beach Kennel Club’s Guzman doubts that number.
“That is very typical of the misleading statistics,” he said. “It’s absolutely ridiculously false, and I’ll stand on that.”
While he cited no figures on greyhound deaths or injuries at the Daytona Beach track, Guzman said his facility is strictly monitored by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
“We are heavily regulated. We are inspected once a month,” he said. “There’s always a veterinarian here.”
Owners of the racing dogs have a big investment in their animals. Asked how much a greyhound bred and trained to race would cost, Guzman said the price may start at $6,000, “and it may go up $50,000 or $60,000.”
A greyhound’s racing career lasts about two years, he said. What happens then?
“We adopt out about 500 greyhounds a year,” Guzman said, adding that the Kennel Club works with greyhound-rescue organizations. “All of our retired race dogs get adopted out.”
If betting on dog races comes to an end, will there be a crush on such organizations and local animal shelters once the greyhounds are forcibly retired?
“That amendment, if it gets passed, will have two years to phase that out,” KuKes of the Humane Society said. “We’re hoping the breeders will stop right away.”
Concerned Citizens’ Mihalic said there is already a backlog of greyhounds needing adoption.
“That’s 8,000 animals that are already out there right now,” she said. “If you stop the breeding, these animals would be absorbed into the system, anyway.”
If a supermajority of Florida’s voters affirm Amendment 13, Florida will join 40 other states where dog racing is illegal.
Florida is one of only six states that have gambling on dog races; the other states are Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia. Four other states that allow dog racing do not have it, because there are no tracks open and operating.
Will Florida voters let the dogs out? Stay tuned.